Bangkok, Thailand Travel Guide: A Food Lover’s Paradise
Kaffir lime, lemongrass, chili, mint, coconut milk…with staple ingredients like these, how could your food not taste fantastic? But in Bangkok, cooking and eating truly goes above and beyond. The high-end international cuisine is fit for a king (just ask any of the dozens of Michelin-starred chefs), and the out-of-this-world street food is equally as good, costing as little as $1.50 an entrée. Sure, a 6.4 million-person metropolis can seem a little crazy at first blush, but here's how to cut through the noise and serenade your stomach.
Where to Eat
Spice up your life at these stellar restaurants
Issaya Siamese Club
Celebrity chef? Check. Historic villa? Check. Organic veggies grown on premises? Check. Come to this 100-year-old home in the heart of downtown for a drink in the tropical garden before wandering the exquisitely decorated rooms and enjoying chef Ian Kittichai’s signature Massaman curry lamb shank and jasmine flower flan.
4 Chuea Phloeng Rd
Supanniga Eating Room
If you’re looking for something that tows the line between stall food and high-end, hit up this local favorite, known for its posh space, incredible food and reasonable prices. The family-run eatery highlights regional dishes from around the country, particularly the far-flung Trat province. Learn the phrase “nam prik khai pu” and prepare yourself for the best spicy crab of your whole entire life.
Need a bite after visiting Wat Arun, the city’s most iconic temple? This restaurant is right across the river and offers stunning views of the illuminated stupa at night. Try Thai-fusion dishes like slow-roasted duck cooked with red curry coconut, lychee, sweet basil and chile.
What to Do
Take your love of food to the streets
Best Eats Midnight Food Tour
Bangkok is truly the city that doesn't sleep, so don’t expect your noshing to end after the sun goes down. For a food tour you'll never forget, hop in the Best Eats moto-rickshaw with a local foodie and you’ll be whisked away to night markets, hidden food stalls and secret bars galore. Try authentic Guay Tiew Kua Gai (stir-fried rice noodles with chicken) that’ll put your neighborhood pad Thai to shame, and wash it all down with an ice cold Chang, the country's most popular beer.
Blue Elephant Cooking School
Take a cooking class from one of the city’s chefs, and you can bring your dining experience home with you. With a focus on Thai royal gastronomy, the Blue Elephant School teaches the history and preparation of the country's signature dishes like curry, noodles and heavenly coconut soup. The day starts with a guided shopping trip to the market and concludes with a four-course meal--made entirely by you, of course.
Taling Chan Floating Market
Bangkok is comprised of a system of canals, where fishmongers, fruit vendors and craftsmen paddle their wares to market. Taling Chan is one of the city's most authentic floating markets, with canoes doubling as kitchens and docks becoming dining rooms. Hire a long-tail boat from downtown, zip to the market for breakfast and then meander your way home through the bustling waters.
Where to Stay
A refined hotel with top-tier cuisine
Built on the former grounds of the Lotus Pond Palace, this Siam Square resort retains a royal elegance in both style and address. (Thailand's current princess still lives across the street.) Stay in any of the chic suites to get access to the sky-high Executive Lounge with all-day refreshments, including a full spread cocktail hour overlooking the city. Just save room for dinner at the attached Sra Bua, which comes courtesy of the only restaurateurs to get a Michelin star for Thai cooking.
What to Skip
Because hoards of tourists aren’t your thing
Khao San Road
This entertainment district is a hot mess of backpacker tourist shtick. Unless you’re dying to eat fried scorpions and see a ping-pong show (don't ask), head a few blocks further to Rambuttri, an old-school street with restaurants, bars and food stalls populated by actual Thai people.
What to Pack
It's the official shoe of Southeast Asia. From girls in dresses to construction workers hauling bricks, everyone wears rubber thongs. No need to get fancy, just bring your most comfortable pair.
Flowy, flirty and breezy, these pants will be your go-to on humid Bangkok days. Though easily dressed up for a fine restaurant, they're especially useful for visiting temples, where you’re asked to wear something that hits below the knee.
Talking Thai Food App
Search more than 130 dishes, organized by category, with handy photos labeled with Thai script and a phonetic English translation. There’s even an audio function that you can use for practicing pronunciation. Or, if all else fails, just play it out loud for the food-cart guy.